There are 3 very good reasons why an organisation should adopt written environmental, health & safety and quality management systems - we're going to explore what they are.

Broadly speaking they can be grouped into 'legal', 'economic' and 'moral/ethical'.

Firstly, each and every organisation has legal obligations to meet; these range from various health and safety obligations enforced under the Health and Safety at Work (HASAW) Act through to numerous types of environmental obligations under the Environmental Protection Act and Environment Act. A written management system will help an organisation to meet its legal requirements in protecting its workforce, customers, environment and public from harm and mitigate the potential for criminal action being brought to bear.

Secondly, the economic advantages of operating a written management system are plentiful; by reducing the risks of personal or environmental damage, an operator will reap the rewards of lower sick pay, insurance, damage or losses (time, resources, products, raw materials etc), repairs, overtime or temporary cover costs, productions delays, investigation time and fines. Stoppages will be reduced and output increased.

Thirdly, the moral and ethical benefits are clear, in that organisations with written management systems clearly state their aspirations, raise awareness, motivate employees and offer customer satisfaction through knowing that their operations are conducted safely and sustainably.

It is also worthwhile considering not only the internal benefits of written management systems (e.g. making sure no-one is hurt during activities) but also how the external obligations to customers and the public are improved (e.g. making sure the public are kept safe or the environment is not damaged).

By adopting a written management system, an organisation will engender a well-informed, forward looking business with high standards of quality and good communication, resulting in competitive advantage. The adoption of recognised management standards such as ISO14001, OHSAS18001 or EMAS is also important in winning tenders and demonstrating high standards of compliance to customers.

Article by Colin Gray of Harbour House (NE) Associates Ltd.

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